Bubble wants to enable potential builders to create their ideas without code, so we are exploring and reviewing the many tools and software that teachers, freelancers, and entrepreneurs might use to build apps.
What is Thunkable?
Founded in 2015, Thunkable is a San Francisco-based company that describes its product as a “drag and drop mobile app builder” that enables anyone to create beautiful and powerful native apps.
Theoretically, you can build complex apps with Thunkable by dragging and dropping different logical components as if they were blocks. Using these building blocks is reminiscent of the visual programming language known as Scratch, which is largely an educational tool that creates limited logic and helps teach some basic coding.
Every Thunkable app project can be downloaded for Android and iOS devices and exported to the Google Play and Apple App Store. You can start new projects from scratch or customize an existing sample app from the growing gallery of open source projects.
Who is Thunkable for?
Thunkable can benefit teachers, artists, small business owners, freelancers, startup founders, and people who are looking to turn their hobby into an app. They offer a “Teacher’s Lounge” on their community forum where educators can share lesson plans, lecture slides, plans for assessments, pedagogical strategies, and more.
People who want to create native Android and iOS apps from scratch or have existing open source projects will find Thunkable helpful for building and framing their projects. They can use Thunkable to showcase their businesses online, re-design similar apps that already exist, or create educational games that teach topics such as foreign languages, music, or spelling.
Thunkable Cost and Pricing
(Pricing model evaluation: May 2020)
Thunkable offers a few subscription options: free or PRO (paid annually or monthly). Educational groups can create a custom plan by reaching out to the Thunkable Team. They do not offer free trials for their PRO subscriptions.
Free: Thunkable gives you 200MB of account storage, unlimited public projects, and the ability to test your app with certain PRO components, including AdMob. However, you must use Thunkable App Branding, including their logo, and your app is automatically viewable to the public.
PRO: Thunkable’s paid option costs $21 per month (when billed annually) or $25 monthly and allows users to create and edit private projects, in addition to public ones. You receive 1000MB (1GB) of account storage, personalized app branding (users can replace the Thunkable logo with their own), expedited building and publishing features such as requests to fix critical bugs, and unlimited access to PRO components like AdMob.
Other users do not have access to your private apps, but you can share them with fellow PRO subscribers. If your PRO membership expires, you can still view and preview your private app projects, but you will not be able to edit them unless you renew your membership or set the project to public mode.
Thunkable vs. Bubble: A Comparison
How does Thunkable compare to other no-code app development platforms, like Bubble?
Similarities between Thunkable and Bubble:
Both Thunkable and Bubble can develop web apps using visual programming.
Both Thunkable and Bubble currently have a free plan option.
Both have hosting integrated on their platforms for a monthly subscription price.
Both offer step-by-step tutorials that walk users through particular actions.
Both have an active community of builders who offer advice and answer app building questions.
Both provide educational resources for all different kinds of learners.
The key differences between Thunkable and Bubble are:
Native Apps: Thunkable allows for each app to work on every mobile platform, including native Android, native iOS, and mobile web apps. After making any updates, you can preview your app by downloading the Thunkable app and pushing changes from the web editor. Bubble has a response editor to see how your app will appear across a variety of mobile platforms but does not yet support native app development (as of May 2020). Some Bubble community members have found ways to convert their apps to mobile app stores using wrappers like GoNative, Dropsource or Cordova.
Remixing Templates: On Thunkable, you can customize an existing sample app from their growing gallery of open source projects, or build your project from scratch. They provide a list of “Top Community Projects” that can be used as reference. With Bubble, templates are available for free and for purchase by third-party creators, such as Rapid Dev.
Web Editor and Workflows: Thunkable’s design allows you to build apps by dragging and dropping your favorite components. Building workflows through blocks seem very similar to the logic-based educational programming language Scratch, but using them can get a bit unwieldy.
Thunkable’s frontend editor is also not free form. As you add elements, they get added to the stack and all elements seem to appear in a single column. Thunkable doesn’t have the same level of backend database support as Bubble. Bubble allows for both front and back-end events and elements control with full database functionality. Things like handling conditional situations or connecting to any API are easier to build in Bubble, but harder to achieve in Thunkable.
User management system: Bubble comes with a pre-made sign-up and login workflow for users, including connecting to external services (signing in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, Plaid, Stripe, etc.). With Thunkable, there is a space to input your credentials for Stripe and Firebase, but you need to build your own user management system.
Alternatives to Thunkable
Alternative no-code CMS platforms or tools that allow you to build a web application without code include the following tools:
If your project just needs a website landing page with a mobile-responsive design, then a templated website host with responsive mobile designs like Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly should meet your needs.
If you want greater depth to your workflows and require full backend database functionality for managing users or data, no-code platforms like Bubble (with a third-party mobile wrapper) are the best alternative.
If you are launching a blog and want an open-source CMS platform with powerful plugins, try WordPress.
Bubble is a leader in the no-code movement. Bubble offers a powerful point-and-click web editor and cloud hosting platform that allows users to build fully customizable web applications and workflows, ranging from simple prototypes to complex marketplaces, SaaS products, and more. Over 400,000 users are currently building and launching businesses on Bubble - some have gone on to participate in top accelerator programs, such as Y Combinator, and even raised $365M in venture funding. Bubble is more than just a product. We are a strong community of builders and entrepreneurs that are united by the belief that everyone should be able to create technology.
Disclaimer: The goal of these reviews is to provide an honest, practical, differentiated comparison of features and educate readers on tools in the no-code ecosystem so that you can evaluate how these services fit together and serve your needs.